Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Lookback & 2016 Goals

I set writing goals every year. I'm not a huge stickler on them, but it's nice to make them and strive amiably to hit them. If I do (booyah!), if not, that's okay too. Here's what I set last year: 

1. Write two books. Nope. I wrote one book, two short stories, and a picture book. And did a whole lot of revising on another book.

2. Get an agent/publishing contract. Nope. Which let's admit was a dumb one to make! Though I did make it with the intent to focus on my work ethic more. And I think I did pretty decent with that. There were some months toward the end of the year I slacked off, but I'd changed jobs. And while I really like it, it's a totally new (and difficult) field for me, which meant my brains kind of were melting. And some days, still are!

3. Relax about getting an agent/publishing contract. Okay, total fail. Last year I had weeks of 'I'm chill', and then weeks of 'this is never going to happen' . But then, toward the end of the year when I was dealing w/the job change, I slowly realized that I'm not as rabid about the agent/publishing contract. I still absolutely want it, but it's okay if I go a few weeks without writing, or if I focus on reading, or party planning, or DIYing. I know in my heart that one day I will have a book w/my name on it, and I'm okay w/whenever that happens. Writing makes me happy and turning it into a stress game does me no favors. 

3. Stay positive and believe dreams do come true! So, so. =) On the positive anyway. I still absolutely 100% believe dreams come true. 


Well, then. It's time for 2016. Last year's were a bit vague-ish, so I'm going for more concrete. And...shocker!...some of them won't be related to writing.

1. Write a book. Forget two. With always having something waiting in the wings to be revised, two is not happening. But still, writing one book in a year is pretty cool. Go you, Mizz Wallace. (I'm trying to jazz myself up here, ppl. Yanno like a boxer warming up, watching himself in the mirror.) ;) 

2. Spruce up our back porch. Our back yard is yucky. Weedy and buggy. We have a covered porch, but all that's on it is our riding lawn mower and a neglected grill. No more! I'm buying a glider, a chair, repurposing some pillows, buying a fire pit. Gonna make it purdy. I'll admit this one is going to be a struggle. I hate weeds, and I also hate trying to take care of them. It's going to be a woman vs yard battle this summer. 

3. Begin querying this spring. Marchish or Aprilish, I'm hoping to get back in the fray. I had a pretty decent request rate last time, so I'm hoping I will w/this ms as well. But it never goes down the same way twice, so I know I shouldn't get my hopes up. 

4. Revise my New Orleans paranormal. I finished it last summer, and it's just sat there since then. My faith in it wavers, b/c I'm not sure if it's unique enough to really stand out, but I don't want to give up on it either. But I also don't want to expend the sweat, blood and tears that is revising when I could be focusing on something else. 

5. Turn an old headboard into a fireplace mantel. This is one I'm not sure if it's feasible yet. I've seen it done in DIY posts, and our old headboard is languishing out in the shed. I've got to hack my way through the weeds at some point and get out there and measure it. It might be too long for the wall, or completely out of my skill set.  

So those are my intentions for 2016. I hope everyone has a safe & fun New Year Eve's, whether that's out w/family or friends, or staying in to eat chicken burritos at their in-laws! (me, yum!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

DEAD AND BREAKFAST is on Kindle Scout!

Have you all heard of the Kindle Scout program? It's where people submit their book for consideration of a contract w/Amazon cp Kimberly has been picked for consideration! (whoo!) If you go to her page you can even read an excerpt, which I think is really great. (Of course, I'm biased, but it really is great!)

If you read the synopsis and excerpt and like the sound of Dead and Breakfast then definitely consider nominating her. She's on the hot and trending list right now (awesome!) and I know she would love your support to help her stay there. Thanks all!

Monday, December 14, 2015

The 3rd Annual First Line Christmas Contest Winners!!!

First, thanks so much to everyone who participated! I always look forward to this contest, and as always, you all did not disappoint. =) Now...let's get to the winners! 

Mackenzi Lee picked...Carrie Beckort's entry!

It was my first time riding the Polar Express, so I didn't know that I'd be denied hot chocolate just for hitting my brother over the head with a nutcracker.

Mackenzi said: I laughed out loud when I read her line. And hers feels like the start of something. It's not trying to be a whole narrative in a sentence--it makes a great set up, and entices the reader into wanting more. And I have been enticed. 

* * *
Victoria Scott picked...Patsy's entry!

After Mrs Lucas bought a red coat and rearranged the letters in her name, the behaviour of local children improved considerably.

Victoria said: After careful thought, I'm choosing Patsy's first line. It's creative, simple, and she managed to establish her voice in a single sentence. Impressive! 

Congrats, Carrie and Patsy! Please let me know if you'd like your copy of Let It Snow through B&N, Kindle, or some other ebook retailer.

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Victoria also made a first line for us: I do my best killin' after sucking on a candy cane.

(Personally, I hope I don't meet this person at any point during the holiday season!) ;)

And so as not to be left out of the fun, here's mine: The ornament glowed softly in the light and I touched it gently, sending it spinning-- just like Step-mother would do to me if she caught me. 

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Thanks once again to our marvelous judges, Mackenzi Lee and Victoria Scott. They both write fantastic books, which I hope you'll check out. 

And lastly, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family. Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The 3rd Annual First Line Christmas Contest!!!

It's that time of year again! Twinkling lights, yummy treats, presents under the tree...& first lines! For those of you have been around awhile (& thank you for that!), you know how this goes, but in case we have any newcomers (welcome, welcome!), it goes like this: 

I supply a list of Christmas/holiday words. You then craft a first line to a story, using one (or more, if you feel like) of the words provided. Leave it in the comments & two winners will be announced on 12/14 by our guest judges. The prizes are an ebook copy of Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle. 

And speaking of guest judges, this year we have the lovely Mackenzi Lee & Victoria Scott!!

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three.Her first novel, This Monstrous Thing, a YA steampunk reimagining of Frankenstein, is out now from HarperCollins. She currently calls Boston home.

Victoria Scott writes teen fiction, and is represented by Sara Crowe. She’s the author of the Fire & Flood series published by Scholastic, the Dante Walker trilogy published by Entangled Teen, and the upcoming teen stand-alone, Titans, being published by Scholastic, spring 2016. Her books have been bought and translated in eleven foreign markets, and her next release, Salt & Stone, recently received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. Victoria lives in Dallas with her husband and adores getting to know her readers. Visit her online at

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The List

red berries
Polar Express
gingerbread house
gingerbread man
three wise men
Douglas fir
candy cane
Advent calendar
tree skirt
pine cone
ice skates
Mrs. Claus
wrapping paper
abominable snowman (or Yeti)
hot chocolate
Yule log
Festival of Lights
snow angel

I do believe this might be the biggest list of holiday words so far. You can make words plural or singular to suit your needs. All first sentences for whatever genre are welcome, though please keep it family-friendly. 
Also, the judges are taking time out of their own busy holiday season to help out, so a follow on social media or marking their book to read on Goodreads or even a newsletter subscription would be much appreciated, I'm sure!
And now...the 3rd Annual First Line Christmas Contest is open. Write away all!!!

*Contest is now closed, judges deliberating their winners*

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Author Stop: Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson

I'm thrilled today to be hosting Jessica and Stephanie, two ladies whom are a bright spot in the writing/blogging world, and whose MG novel is debuting this month!

1. You lovely ladies are the first writing duo to be featured on my blog! (um...congrats? *wink*) How does the writing process work between you both?

Jess: Stephanie and I have been friends for a long time, so it’s easy for us to talk about things without having any drama involved. We can just decide what we want to do, then put our heads together and figure it out. It’s fun to write with someone whose opinion you value. It gives you the freedom to let the creativity flow. I truly enjoy writing with Stephanie, and I feel lucky to have her as my co-author.

Stephanie: I agree with what Jess said and love working with her. I would add that we also spend a lot of time talking out what we want to write next. Sometimes we read aloud a chapter or two and then discuss what we think will happen next. Our phone conversations are mostly about writing! Then, whoever has a chance to start writing first goes into Google Docs and writes. The other person will read what was written, make edits, and start adding their thoughts. Because we use Google Docs we can write from wherever we are, and the changes are instant. We agreed when we started writing together that we wanted to write the best stories we could and that we wouldn’t let our feelings get in the way, and that has made a world of difference.

2. I love creepy houses in fiction. Do either of you live in a creepy house?

Jess: Not currently, but the Begonia House is based on an experience in my grandparents’ house in Ridgefield, CT- though the fictional house has grown in magic and size quite a bit due to our vivid imaginations.

Stephanie: I don’t live in a creepy house, but my current house is about 100 years old and we have found unique items in it dating back to the first family that lived here. For example, we uncovered a drawing on the wall behind wallpaper we were taking down that was done around 1930. Unfortunately the wallpaper remover got to the pencil drawing and it only lasted minutes, but it was fascinating to uncover and see it while it lasted. I also lived in a house from the 1700s for a few months, and it really got me thinking!

3. You're in the check-out line at the grocery store. What candy bar tempts you most?

Jess: Payday or Snickers.

Stephanie: This is tough, as I am a chocoholic. All of them? It depends on the day- but probably Twix, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Take 5.

4. What will you be doing on release day to celebrate?

Jess: When the book is released on 12/1, I’ll be enjoying every moment with my awesome co-author. We’ll be signing books at the Waterbury, CT Barnes and Noble at 2PM on Friday 12/5 to cap off launch week.

Stephanie: Our plans for our release week are still coming together, but we will definitely take time to celebrate. I know we will laugh, possibly cry (from joy), and there will be squeals of delight. If the weather cooperates we will celebrate in person, if it is snowing (we are in CT after all) then we will enjoy the moment over the phone!

5. What is a fav line(s) from TSFoFM (one from both of you, please!)?

Jess: The daylight began to fade, painting the sky with long pinkish purple streaks of color. Fairday’s bedroom was hazy with the last dusty beams shining through the window. As she closed the door and switched on the overhead lamp, shadows shifted over the walls. Lizzy flung her overnight bag in the corner, then sat down on the bed, listening with rapt attention to Fairday’s recount of the incident involving… ;)

Stephanie: Fairday left the room and was heading back down the hall when she heard the strangest sound. It was faint, and it was coming from behind the padlocked door. She walked over and put her ear up against it. Something that sounded like music was coming from behind the door, but really odd music. It was high-pitched and whiny. Was she imagining it? She listened for a minute, trying to think of what could possibly make sounds like that, and then she knew.

* * *

Jessica Haight is a true New Englander, with a deep desire to be near the ocean and a love of the four seasons. She enjoys drawing while standing up and cultivating magic in her garden. She easily floats away in the pages of a good story and is still waiting for her owl from Hogwarts. Jessica lives in Connecticut with her charming fiancé, James; dog, Jack; cat, Bill; and a very entitled bunny named Alice.

Stephanie Robinson lives with her husband in a quiet town, though not as quaint as Ashpot. After teaching fifth grade for almost fifteen years, she is now enjoying her role as a school media specialist. One of the many benefits of her job is that she learns something new every day. When Stephanie isn't working, she spends her time creating stories, getting lost in books, and traveling to new places.

Find Jess & Steph here: Blog | Twitter

Fear Not the Unexpected

Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s absolutely certain she’ll die of boredom.

As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past.

Before she can even unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where an ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure.

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads 

* * *
“Remember, young lady, you have to think beyond what you know to be real. You have to see with your mind as well as your eyes.” The old man pulled his glasses down to the end of his nose and looked at her. “Be careful, Miss Morrow. Please be very careful.”

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

On Writing Memberships

I've been a member of SCBWI for two years, I do believe. My membership expires tomorrow, and sadly, I'm not renewing it. It just comes at a bad time of the year, w/Christmas just around the corner. Are many of you members of SCBWI, or any other writing organization? And do you feel like you gain much from being a member? Just curious...

I definitely plan on rejoining at some point. I do feel like being able to put in my query letters that I am a member shows that I look at writing as a professional career, even though I'm not a professional writer (yet...okay, disclaimer: the dream that I'll someday be able to totally support myself through writing has waned throughout the years, but some days it still flickers into flame every now & then). 

But right now in my life, membership doesn't make much sense. With working full-time and the whole baby-sitting scrabble, I can't go to many of the events. I have done two Indiana SCBWI conferences that I quite enjoyed, and were only about an hour and a half away. But next year's conference is gonna be a biggie w/several surrounding states involved. It'll be held in Chicago, and w/parenting responsibilities, I just can't go. 

And honestly, I have no desire to be in a big city all by myself. It's hard enough to push myself to be sociable w/strangers when it's in my own state and a hundred people or so. Totally not happening when it's thousands! And I imagine that many ppl go w/buddies, and can you imagine trying to 'break the ice' w/a group of unfamiliar eyes looking at you? Brrr! No, thanks! 

Wow, I am sounding like quite the unsocial butterfly in the post, lol! I am a sociable person, but do better when it's people I already know and in a smaller setting. Then I'll talk your ear off. But back on track: I've gone to two in-state conferences, a critique meeting, and a luncheon. I enjoyed them all, and do still interact online w/some of the people I've met there. So my two-year membership stint did pay off. 

I will say that I wish I could go to one last event, which is a holiday party in Indianapolis. I secretly long to dress up and go out w/the hubby to eat hors d'oeuvres and feel like those people that you see in the holiday commercials, laughing and sparkly w/big fat flakes of snow spiraling down. husband is even less socially-inclined than I am, and would rather eat nails than go smooze w/people he doesn't know. 

So I guess I'll just wait for our anniversary next month when we'll probably go to our local Applebee's. I can laugh and sparkle there too, I guess. Or wear a comfy hoodie and boots. Whichever! 

Oh! And one final thing...I won PiBoIdMo! That's right. I now have 30 pic book ideas to pick and choose between, conglomerate ideas, or snigger over how awful of an idea that one is (or two- let's just hope it's not thirty...). I really enjoyed it and hope I've some future, completed PB manuscripts in there somewhere.  

Monday, November 30, 2015


Today, I have the pleasure of hosting Judith Natelli McLaughlin and revealing the cover for her middle grade novel Dear Diary, E.P. Thompson Here.

More about Dear Diary, E.P. Thompson Here

Dear Diary,
E. P. Thompson here.
Worst. Year. Ever. First semester in sixth grade, and my best friend Debbie has dropped me because my boobs aren’t big enough. Well, she didn’t say that exactly, but I just know that’s the reason. Then I got paired with Adam Berry, the biggest pencil-protecting geek of the decade, for the never-ending, semester-long math project. And as if that’s not bad enough, Thomas Maxwell, the cutest boy in my grade, only pays attention to me when I’m making a total fool of myself. Ugh.
Weirdest thing of all: it seems Lucas C. Tanner Middle School has a full-on, bona fide thief! Now all the teachers are going crazy and all the students are too, because Mrs. Peule has promised to make this year a living nightmare until the culprit is caught. We have to find out who is ruining sixth grade. Like, now!
Well, at least the criminal activity has taken the focus off my lack of bra ownership. Sigh.
I have to go. I’ll write again soon. Promise.

More about Judith Natelli McLaughlin

Judith Natelli McLaughlin grew up reading a solid diet of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, and Shel Silverstein. Her mom was famous for telling her, "You are never alone if you have a book," and her dad, a lover of words, was always reciting poetry to her.
She went on to write, illustrate, and publish her own poetry book,Poems on Fruits and Odes to Veggies—Where Healthy Eating Starts With a Poem. Her other works include a women’s fiction novel titled This Moment and a soon to be released children’s chapter book, Mackenzie Goode Makes A Mistake—A Big One.
She lives in New Jersey with her husband Brian; her three daughters Katie, Lindsay, and Maggie; and her faithful writing companion, a Westie named Duke.

And the the big reveal...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My Writer Bucket List

I've seen these from time to time around the web, & filed the idea away for a someday post. I guess that someday is today! Much of mine is what I think many of us all wish for, but there might be a new one here or there. 

1. Hold a paperback or hardback of my book. There are several ebook publishers I wouldn't mind being published by (at all), but I definitely want to get physical with one of my stories someday (ew, haha!).

2. Hit the NYT's bestseller list. Is there a writer alive who doesn't want this?

3. See my book on the bigscreen. How awesome would it be to go to your local theater, and watch a  world created by you come to life, hopefully surrounded by family and friends. Fantastico! See? I don't even need a red carpet & flashing lights (hear that, Universe? I'm open to being humble!). 

4. Book signings. I know these can be a hit or a miss, but I at least want to have the chance to sit at a table & see if anyone shows up. (I will bring candy! Please come!)
5. Participate in a book panel. Note, I didn't say be a speaker at a conference (which I'm not eloquent or smart enough anyway!). That just sounds too nerve-wracking. But sitting w/other authors & answering questions seems like it'd be a good time.

6. Win an award. It would be nice to see my book have some kind of pretty gold or silver sticker on it. Though I'm not super-versed in lit prizes. Caldecott, Newbery, & Printz are about the only ones I know of. I'll gladly take a lesser one! 

7. Have one kick-butt book launch party. After reading & writing, my next passion is party planning. Getting to plan a party centered around my book is something I daydream about all the time. Like, you don't even know. I mean, obviously, I just told you, but...yeah. You don't even. 

8. Dedicate my first book to my Mom. My mother read to us when we were infants, and never stopped. Without her, I wouldn't love the written word the way I do & so it goes without saying, the first one is for her. 

9. Meet my critique partners. Kimberly, Kristin, & Beth are my girls. I so want to meet them one day! 

10. Have a book trailer. I am super picky about these, so having a good one would be lovely. But under two minutes, as I get impatient with long ones. 

* * *

So there you are, my book dreams in a list. Some are lofty, but what good are dreams if you don't dream high, eh? Feel free to share any of your own! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Anna Soliveres is just one of those people that you love to interact with: friendly and warm, with the cutest cats! ;) I'm delighted to help share the cover for her latest book! 

Crimson Earth by Anna Soliveres (Modi #2) 
Publication date: December 10th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Aeva Storm finally has the answers she’s been looking for since the night she was struck by lightning. She knows who she is—and more importantly, what she is. But her secret isn’t hers alone to keep, and some of those who know the truth will do anything to control her.

In the sequel to the acclaimed Violet Storm, Aeva must decide how far she’ll go to protect her identity and to find her missing sister in a world she hardly recognizes. She must embrace her new life—and her strange new body—if she hopes to save the only place she and her family have left to call home.

Filled with action, mystery, and heartbreak, Crimson Earth finds Aeva, Ruven, and Karth on opposing sides as the war between The False Alliance and the Monarchy draws near.

Can they band together to fight against the evil threatening the City? Or will they destroy each other before the war has even begun?

Add to Goodreads | Pre-order

Also, if you sign up for Anna's newsletter, you can get the first 2 chapters free!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Anna Soliveres has always been a storyteller but it wasn't until her early twenties when she began writing novel length works. The result was an enthusiasm to get better at the craft until her work could be shared with the world. Released in March 2014, VIOLET STORM is her debut novel. Anna is currently working on another young adult fantasy series, titled SNOW DOLLS. To learn more, please visit her

Thursday, November 12, 2015

In Which I Share Embarrassing Tidbits of Information

I am technically challenged. Me and computers don't always see eye to eye. Honestly, they mystify me. And since writing-- for the most part-- takes place completely on one of them, I've learned a few things (slooowly) over the years. 

Take for example my first book. I wrote that thing in chapters. Like most of us do. *grin* But I saved each chapter individually. All by itself. Do you know, that when you've written a 90K+ book, with some thirty-odd chapters, that amazingly enough, you don't remember what's in each chapter? Instead you spend A LOT of time clicking in and out of chapters trying to remember what is where. 

I had a lightbulb moment when listening to Christine Johnson giving a NaNoWriMo talk at the library several years ago. She said she just wrote it all in one big ms. No separate folders for each chapter. Just one big word doc. 

*BOOM* Mind blown. (gah, it's beyond embarrassing how clueless I am sometimes) 

I only learned this year that ctrl A highlights an entire body of text.

And do you know how much I would've given to know that you can highlight an entire body of text, and drag the little marker over on the ruler-thingy at the top of Word, and thus indent hundreds of pages of text at once?

True story: Around two years ago, I stayed up 'til after 3 a.m. manually indenting every single line in a full request for an agent. Every. Single. Line. I got to about 75% and then had to give up. It was either that or go stark-raving mad. So I picked sanity and three hours of sleep. 

Also, a few weeks ago, I realized I can search my inbox for emails. That's super handy!

Am I alone in my tech-stupidity? Please share any tales you might have-- it'll make me feel better!  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Author Stop: Marilou Reeder & THE DARING PRINCE DASHING

Today, author Marilou Reeder is here to talk about daring princes and the best dessert ever! 

1. Being raised in Wisconsin, what would you tell ppl about that state that they might not know?

Wisconsin is not all cheese, brats, and football! There is a small city in the state called Wisconsin Dells which is truly the waterpark capital of the world. And there’s Little House on the Rock, an eclectic museum of sorts that shouldn’t be missed if you happen to be visiting the area. My favorite pastry, Kringle, is made only in Racine, WI. It’s made in a large oval shape, filled with anything from raspberries to cheese, and topped with icing. Light, flaky, and delicious (okay, now I’m making myself hungry!). Growing up, I always felt that there was a real appreciation for the arts--not just to observe them, but to be active participants in them. That was very enriching as a child. The winters are cold, of course, but the people are incredibly warm.

2. After a picture book is sold, do the authors do much collaborating with the illustrators?
Not in my case. Early in the creation of the book, I was shown some sample spreads by the talented Karl West. It’s a thrilling experience to find out who will be illustrating your text! After that, months went by, and my editor, Julie Matysik, emailed me with art for the entire book asking for input regarding continuity. Julie was wonderful about listening to my comments. Karl and I never communicated directly at this time, though, and that was probably best. He brought so much of his own vision to the book. The spreads are brimming with humorous details, and I know readers will enjoy poring over them as much as I do. I see something new every time I read the book.

3. How well do you think your children would get along with Daring Prince Dashing if he were to suddenly take up residence in your lives?

It’s funny you ask this, because our next door neighbor is a Prince Dashing, and he is very much a part of our lives. He and my youngest daughter pal around all the time.They explore! And ride scooters down the hill! Fortunately, we don’t live near any crocodiles.

4. What do you consider the best.dessert.ever?

This is a tough one, because I don’t think I’ve met a dessert I didn’t like. Key lime pie is a favorite.

5. What is a fav line(s) from The Daring Prince Dashing?

“The next morning after a breakfast of rattlesnake eggs with Whoopin’ Hot Sauce, Prince Dashing made an announcement.”

You’ll have to read the book to find out what his announcement is.

* * *

Prince Dashing is daring and will stop at nothing to find a new friend!

Prince Dashing bathes with crocodiles, eats while dangling upside down from the tallest trees, and toasts s’mores by dragon’s breath.

The night of the royal ice cream social, he meets a girl as adventurous as he is. But at the stroke of bedtime, the girl hurries off, leaving behind her mysterious stick. In his usual daring way, Dashing ventures out to search for the stick’s owner. He gallops by groups of thugs, tromps past toothy crocodiles, and eventually stumbles into the zoo. Will he ever find his friend?

Follow Dashing and one equally daring girl in this humorous tale of fearless fun and friendship.

* * * 

Happiest when I'm creating. Author of THE DARING PRINCE DASHING, Sky Pony Press. Mom of three. Represented by @KatRushall of Marsal Lyon Literary.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Rochelle Deans & Harry Potter is for Nerds II

Hey, guys! So I am delighted to have Rochelle Deans stop by! I met Rochelle through the QueryTracker forum, and she is ever a fun person to interact with. She recently had an essay published in an anthology- Harry Potter is for Nerds II!

1. I know HP lovers always remember how they first came into contact w/the books. How were you first introduced to Harry Potter?

This story is going to be longer than you probably intended, because my introduction to Harry Potter was in phases, and all three phases are important.J

My sister’s teacher was reading them aloud in class during the height of anti-Potter mania in the Christian world. She must’ve been about 8, and I was 11. My mom wasn’t sure she wanted my sister hearing them, since she’d heard a lot about the evils therein and how the books were going to turn all kids into witches and whatnot.

My sister wanted to keep hearing the story, and as she explained it to my mom, I wanted to read it, too. So my mom decided she would actually read it to see if it was as harmful as all the Christian buzz said it would. She read it, loved it, and found nothing wrong, so my sister was allowed to keep listening to them during story time, and she bought me copies of the first three books to read.

I don’t remember reading them for the first time. I wish I did, but that was an age where I devoured books. They didn’t affect me much stronger than others, until my sister lost the first four books, hard cover, at school. I couldn’t afford to replace them, so I became a less devoted fan, reading a friend’s copy of new releases until 2007 and never re-reading them.

I was a casual fan until The Hunger Games came out and, after reading Catching Fire, I Googled “Peeta as Christ figure,” because the imagery made a lot of sense to me. I came across a website called, which analyzed Peeta as a Christ figure in depth. And much of the older posts on the blog, as evidenced by the name, were about the deep symbolism and literary devices that could be found in Harry Potter. I read through all the archives, added it to my blogroll, and had a renewed interest in the Harry Potter series. Three years after Deathly Hallows was released, and thanks to an extremely nerdy catalyst, I was part of the fandom.

2. The names in HP are so creative, and lots of fun. If you had to name your child after a HP character who would you go with (no character is off limits)?

I can’t say this is something my husband and I didn’t seriously consider.

I’ve always been partial to the name Luna. If our second was a girl, it came up as a serious contender for a middle name. Most girls’ names were too weird (Hermione) or too normal and not Harry Potter-y enough (Molly) for serious contention. There’s no way I could name a girl after my favorite character, since even she hates her name. (No Tonks or Nymphadora for me.)

As for a boy, we’d probably go with Seamus or George. James and Dean would be higher on the list, but combining them with “Deans” is just a bad idea all around. ;)

3. Please give us the juicy deets on being publishing in Harry Potter for Nerds II!

Well, as always in publishing, this is a very slow story. I mentioned in the answer to the first question that I’d been following Hogwarts Professor since 2010. In 2011 I read a guest post and while reading it, I had an epiphany—or what would be an epiphany if I could prove my hypothesis. Proving it meant learning a lot more about literary alchemy than I had to that point, so I bought a recommended book and spent the next year reading it cover to cover in conjunction with the first four books, which my hypothesis applied to. The evidence supporting my hypothesis was stronger than I thought it would be. Once I’d finished taking extensive notes (sometime in late 2012), I started writing.

When I finished my essay (in mid-2013), it was 7,000 words long. I’d intended it to be a guest post on Hogwarts Professor, but my rebuttal was (1) two years later, and (2) way too long for a blog post. I sent it to the webhost anyway. He read it and recommended I send it on to Travis Prinzi, who had edited the first Harry Potter for Nerdscollection and was thinking about starting another.

I didn’t hear back. Instead, I was invited to speak on a podcast for MuggleNet—and they invited the original guest poster to be there as a rebuttal. So in July 2013, I recorded a podcast with the idea.

 (Here’s the link to the hour-long podcast, Rochelle's part starts about 20 minutes in.)

In June 2014, nearly a year to the day after sending my essay off, I finally heard back. They were interested in publishing the essay. After months of waiting and a back-and-forth that involved rewriting basically the entire thing (from a colloquial blog post into a veritable essay for a collection), it was ready. And now, four years after I started researching, it’s published!

4. There is so much fun HP merchandise out in the world! What item do you wish you could have right now?

I’m actually not much of a souvenir collector. I have a Gryffindor Quidditch onesie I bought long before ever getting pregnant, the series in British English that I bought on my honeymoon, and Chamber of Secrets in Koren, a gift from my brother in law.

The only thing I’m missing is my actual letter to Hogwarts. ;) As they say, “Friendly reminder that anyone born from 1985-1998 didn't get their Hogwarts Letter as Voldemort's ministry destroyed all Muggleborn records.”

Although the new illustrated edition for when my kids are old enough would be awesome.

5. Lastly, what themes in HP speak most strongly to you?

Way to ask the hard questions, Leandra. There is seriously so much going on in the series that I can’t get enough of, especially since I tend to write thematically. Since saying the main themes of love and tolerance being enough to overcome evil is probably clichĂ©, we’ll go with a theme that spoke to me personally. Hermione and I have a lot in common (I mean, you’re interviewing me because I’m getting published in a collection for nerds), so I have a lot to learn from her. This is one quote I’ve tried to take to heart:

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Occupy Hogwarts! Do you see the revolutionary potential of Harry Potter? Where would you stand in the Battle of Hogwarts? Readers who appreciate J.K. Rowling's messages about political and social repression, and about the empowering qualities of empathy, invisibility, and transformative love, will discover inspiration in the latest compilation of essays from editors Kathryn N. McDaniel and Travis Prinzi. Fans of the first Harry Potter for Nerds will find this second volume packed with literary studies of favorite characters, like Remus Lupin, Dobby, Nearly Headless Nick, and the Weasley Twins. And they will also encounter political, economic, and philosophical analyses that explore the problems of our world and point to Rowling's belief in the "power of the powerless" when it comes to solving them. From Squibs to house-elves, from ghosts to young wizards-in-training and even wands and Snitches, the authors in this volume find power in unexpected places. Most of all, they demonstrate the power of expert readers to apply fantasy to the real world in ways that liberate, delight, and inspire.

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Rochelle Deans works as a freelance editor for novels and dissertations. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young daughter. Her bad habits include mispronouncing words, correcting grammar, and spending far too much time on the Internet.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

New Read Alert: Firestarter

Patsy Collins has a new book available! And just from the title, I've a feeling it's got a bit of heat to it...

Alice has a fantasy. It starts with being rescued by a hunky fireman, involves the kiss of life and ends in him not needing his uniform. At the New Forest show, Alice is offered an innocent version of her dream. Reluctantly she turns down fireman Hamish's invitation.

Despite Alice's blameless behaviour, boyfriend Tony's obsessive jealousy results in a split. Hamish wants to take Tony's place, but a hoaxer ensures Alice already sees far too much of Hampshire Fire Service. Dad's explosive sprout surprise, Mum's baking, sister Kate's mind boggling pep talks and the peculiar behaviour of Alice's boss Miles provide distractions.

Is Alice really in danger? What is Kate up to? Can Hamish possibly be as perfect as he seems? It takes Alice masses of wonderful food, disgusting wine, smelly mud, red footed crows and steamy Welsh passion, but she finds the answers. And rethinks her fantasy.

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Patsy Collins lives on the south coast of England with her husband; photographer Gary Davies. She's the author of three novels and is working on two more.

Patsy's short stories (350+ to date) have appeared in a range of UK, Irish, South African, Canadian, Swedish and Australian publications. Some of her stories are available to download from Alfie Dog Fiction.

When she's not writing, Patsy tends her allotment, travels with her husband in their campervan acting as his photographic assistant, and eats cakes. She sometimes gives talks to writing groups.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

I'm Doing PiBoIdMo!

I don't know if I'll ever be a participant of NaNoWriMo. A whole book in a month just seems a bit out of my grasp. But 30 picture book ideas in a month? That's more my speed! I would love to one day have a picture book published, but they do intimidate me. So little words, meaning each one has to have weight, necessity. Eep! 

I have written one picture book so far, about a frog that lives next to a drive-in movie theater. It needs mundo work. But I'd like to keep trying and get better, so churning out multiple ideas to pick from sounds like just what I need. 

If anyone else has been wanting to test the picture book waters, registration is open until the 5th! Here's the link to Tara Lazar's website, the founder of PiBoIdMo. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Book Signing w/Sarah J. Schmitt!

A week ago Sunday was the perfect day to load the kidlet up and head to Indianapolis to Kids Ink (an independent children's bookstore) for a book signing. I've wanted to visit Kids Ink for awhile, and it did not disappoint. There were books and toys galore! Sarah was so nice to talk to, and I loved getting my hands on her gorgeous book, It's A Wonderful Death.

There's also this really neat thing that Kids Ink does: having visiting authors sign/doodle on the bathroom wall (Sarah said she had her markers ready!).

Yup, Shannon Hale and Rainbow Rowell, folks. 

 Now, this one probably excited me the most. Steven Kellogg!!! I loved checking out his books from the library as a kid. So full of wild-eyed wonder and playful illustrations.

Oh, and then there's this one. Just a crayon from The Day the Crayons Quit. You know, that not-very popular picture book...*wink*

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Sarah Schmitt has bachelor's degrees in political science and psychology as well as a master's degree in higher education administration, but she has always loved writing fiction. She is a K-8 school librarian part-time and youth service professional for teens at her public library. Sarah currently lives with her husband and two kidlets near Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction.

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